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S
Safe Wisdom of The Crowd

No, you're not mistaken. Not just Wisdom of the Crowds, rather the Safe Wisdom of the Crowd.

A book written in 2004 by James Surowiecki explains that in some situations, the Wisdom of the Crowds is larger than that of the expert. According to this principle, the crowd as an entity has intelligence. The larger the group, the larger its collective intelligence grows and even surpasses that of the singular expert.  So, is it safe to say that the crowds are right? Is it safe to rely on the Wisdom of the Crowds? I would think twice before doing so.

 

Surowiecki has thoroughly examined the different factors that undermine the Wisdom of the crowds and some situation from "wise" to "dumb".

 

Apparently, if the crowd is diverse and as such its members hold various opinions there is a higher chance that the Wisdom of the Crowds principle will be relevant. Yet if the members of the crowd are influenced similarly (e.g. by external information or peer pressure) the Wisdom of the Crowds principle becomes less relevant and is harmed.

 

Actually, individuals with independent opinions who are confident in their perception affect the other participants' opinion (some more, some less). This may divert the statistics and the percentage of accuracy of the Wisdom of the Crowds. It is noteworthy to remind that in the original definition of the Wisdom the Crowds these people are neutralized since the process should be conducted in an environment in which three conditions are fulfilled, one of them being unaffected participants.

 For further details concerning the Wisdom of the Crowds and the conditions required for its existence, click here.

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Second-Loop Learning

In the world of learning, we usually distinguish between two levels of learning: first-loop learning, in which we improve while observing the value system, norms and behaviors in the organization. Second-loop learning consists of challenging the existing assumptions and changing them: we define new work procedures or methods, and do not define how to implement and actualize the existing material.

 

Unlike first-loop learning which consists of a use of knowledge for a specific problem based on existing assumptions or "what worked in the past", second loop learning goes one step further and challenges the current assumptions in order to create new insights. For example, if we take any problem (one far from the content world we are discussing) such as how to prevent a situation in which earthquakes claim victims, first-loop learning would examine how earthquakes are caused and attempt to predict when the earthquakes will take place in order to aptly prepare for them. Second-loop learning will examine earthquakes as a concept and might come to the conclusion that earthquakes do not claim victims- collapsing buildings do!

Second-loop learning is a term that we should be aware of when producing insights

Self Service Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence enables access, through producing reports, to past and present company data and according to this data also forecast approaches and future business movements. This field is under the responsibility of the Information System department and every request for use of this data goes through them.

The work overload which stems from the high percentage of requests for some sort of use of company data has lead to the need to reduce the amount of requests by providing authorization and appropriate tools and thus enable all edge users, including those that don't thoroughly know how to work with technology-oriented systems and/or unmediated access to data that in the past were available exclusively via mediation of information systems: producing customized reports by request, analyzing researches etc. In short, "self service" BI.

In order to actualize the potential of this "self service" platform, we need a simple, user friendly, comfortable work interface. It should be equipped with utilities such as a simple HELP system that includes an explanation of performed actions, a dictionary, easily orientated design and clear language adapted to the target audience. This interface is meant to assist users to maximally actualize the data's potential.

As a preparatory stage, prior to establishing a self service work interface, the organization must ask itself: what benefit could and would users want to gain from this interface? Examining and defining the targets will focus the discussion on the required tools and allow adapting them to real needs. In most organizations, this kind of examination reveals that 80% of edge users will use reports that are defined according to the needs of the 20 remaining percentages.

It seems to be a win-win situation. Edge users gain direct, simple access to data and information systems benefit from relief from overwork.  But is it really a win-win situation? As many organizations have already learned the hard way, the implementation of a "self service" solution is not as simple as it would seem.

Let's review the advantages of this method:

  1. Reducing overwork in the Information Systems department and making time for dealing with new subjects, such as developing new applications.
  2. Exposing edge users to business data and a simple & comfortable process of producing reports will enable deciding business decisions based on actual statistics rather than on intuition.
  3. Providing precise and scheduled information will assist in gradually instilling z sense of trust within users.
  4. Widely embracing a BI system by the organization's users will exemplify the added value of the Information Systems department.
  5. The more independent use is implemented in the organization's databases, and the decisions made are based on data produced in real time, satisfaction from the double benefit (of both the users and the information systems) will become a milestone in making company workers to partners.

Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages to this method:

  1. Exposing the workers to large amounts of information-flooding instead relieving.
  2. Most users in the organization aren't interested in taking upon themselves the responsibility of locating and producing reports. These activities consume time and someone who is not skilled might make mistakes/errors on which future projects will be based on.
  3. Producing long or complex reports may be a burden on the system's performance.
  4. A large amount of similar/parallel reports can generate difficulty in locating the required report in real time.
  5. Many reports that were created are not used, and therefore create unnecessary overload.

In conclusion, it seems that despite the clear attraction to the 'self service' direction, it is not unlikely that it will cause a drop in use of BI, create an increasingly growing pile of reports and will cause a drop in system performance

Skeuomorphism

When setting up a professional portal, data inventory or external website we deal quite a lot with User Experience. User Experience has a significance effect on reuse of said portal/inventory/website, along the fact that the important data and professional information required for daily ongoing working is stored there. If so, before setting up and building a website, we must consider the users' needs, nature of use, type of entered content. But beyond its professional contribution, we also want users to enter the website regularly. This is where thought must be invested.


What does User Experience include? How is optimal UX attained? The thought about this issue led me to a new concept: Skeuomorphism. According to Wikipedia: "Skeuomorphism - an element of design or structure that serves little or no purpose in the artifact fashioned from the new material but was essential to the object made from the original material".


How does this manifest in the world of internet and UX?


"Real" elements correctly placed in a website can provide users with a "real world" feeling, utilizing this ambience to direct them towards the website's goals and intentions. For example, inserting a calendar into a "real" calendar background can create a familiar sense of a "calendar". A website that sells books can display its books on a background of wooden shelves thus providing a sense of a "real" bookstore.


Is this good? Is it not a bit redundant?


On one hand, using "real" interfaces can provide a familiar feeling and a more pleasant atmosphere when navigating throughout the website, simplifying it for those that struggle with advanced technology. This way, communicating with users is both quicker and simpler. On the other hand, if implemented incorrectly/imprecisely or when the selected interfaces are not familiar to most users, they can be bothersome and generate confusion among users regarding the website's goals. Furthermore, using elements "from the past" are a bad choice when dealing with younger users unfamiliar with these elements. In cases such as these, a reverse effect might be attained.


In my opinion, skeuomorphism can generate positive experiences not only for internet websites but also for websites that contain mainly professional data (especially in a work environment) and make workers return and use the website due to the pleasant experience. For example, using a "shop" interface for a sales hotline or a "retreat" interface for a traveling agency's sales website can generate a different ambiance and benefit the website's goals.


However, when setting up & constructing a website and defining goals one must heavily consider how many "real" interfaces can fit, in what size and make sure that they serve as a background and do not mistakenly take center stage; skeuomorphism must be used only when it contributes to the User Experience.

 

References:


http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/design-theory/skeuomorphism-in-interface-design 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeuomorph 

 

SNA- Social Network Analysis

Social Networks Analysis is a discipline dealing with the mapping and evaluation of relationships and information flow between people, groups, organizations, computers, or any other group which creates and consumes information and knowledge. The 'nodes' in these networks are the people/groups while the connections between them represent the relationships or information flow between the nodes.  SNA provides mathematical and visual analysis of the relationships and connections between people. In every network, we can identify "players" (individuals participating in the network) and "Nodes" through which information flows. We can also analyze how central they are to the network.

 

An analysis of social networks allows reviewing several aspects: symmetry- the degree in which hierarchical or egalitarian relationships are conducted between different players; mutuality- the degree in which players react to one another; multiplicity- the different layers of the relationships in the network; The strength of the network-the frequency of the relationships between the players; The centrality of different players; mediating- the degree and frequency the player mediates between other players; types of relationships, etc. 

In order to understand the networks and their members, we evaluate the players' each node.

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Social Capital

Social Capital is a term routed from the theoretical field in which it was related to social networks and referred to the relationships and meetings between people using social networks. These connections, the relationships between individuals, are perceived as a necessary resource in order to promote a group. This term has been widely regarded in sociological discourse during the late 20th century. Many sociologists, including Bourdieu, Coleman and Putnam perceived interpersonal relationships as the social adhesive, the factor which structures the group and is responsible for its stability. The relationships generate commitment, trust and expectations from the group. The social texture created establishes communication channels and social norms and defines sanctions-for whoever deviates from these norms. The social capital empowers individuals and provides them with possibilities whether he/she participates in these social relationships or not.

Dimensions of social capital

Bourdieu referred to three dimensions of social capital:

  • The structural dimension- refers to the group's inner hierarchy and the network of relationships between people; there is great importance to one's social location in the group as to the people one communicates and the type of relationship they share.
  • The relationship dimension- touches on the nature of the created relationships, the created interpersonal relationships- trust relationships, friendship, solidarity, commitment etc.
  • The cognitive dimension- refers to the group's communicational aspect- creating a social discourse, a language, shared norms and objectives.

These dimensions can assist us in understanding the meaning of social capital and its affect on an organization's Knowledge Management project.

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Social Planning

Nearly all aspects of our life, whether personal, social or professional, require planning ahead. Planning is an efficient and methodical manner to assess and prioritize needs and can be utilized to answer questions such as: who? How many? Where? When and by whom? Social behavior, in contrast, is not monitored according to efficiency or rationality yet in many cases nevertheless requires planning.


Our work environment features many tools that can be of assistance (such as structured work plans) yet are these tools sufficient for quickly and efficiently recruiting participants? Do these tools enable knowledge sharing and discussion? The need to incorporate social sharing elements into the classic planning paradigm has led to the emergence of a new term: social planning, to which we add "sharing". The term is generally used to describe the planning of social services or efforts to enhance the quality of communal life. Let's assume that the workplace is a community which holds social meetings and promotes shared goals.


Let's examine the way in which sharing social planning is implemented in a working environment.
The goal: setting up a professional desktop
Participants: all organization workers
First stage in the process: collecting data
If all data is stored in one place, this stage is simple. What if it is scattered throughout several systems or personnel? If we relate to all knowledge holders as a community, we are actually facing a chance to recruit them all to an activity and cooperate via "social planning". Optimal social planning will define a work plan (goals, objectives, methods, duration, resources, etc.) and assist in deciding on ways to improve communication between community members in the following ways:


• Locating strengths and weaknesses
• Recruiting community members in order to come up with solutions
• Creating a welcoming meeting space for discussion and problem solving
• Attaining a consensus on shared issues or activities
• Retaining synchronization, cooperation and a systematic approach throughout all departments.


Research on social trends, based on the results of needs charting and examining the relevant changing subjects for a wide range of communities, has raised the need for simplifying the planning procedure. For this purpose several technological solutions were developed, e.g. the MASH application which enables planning and managing events which involve a community or group of people/partners easily and efficiently.
Defining the personal profile is the key. Each user has two different profiles he/she must customize: 'friend' and 'acquaintance'. A 'friend' profile is intended for socially oriented events such as weekend bike riding or hiking, while an 'acquaintance' profile is intended for colleagues and work-oriented activities such as thinking tanks. This simple action paves the road for quick and ways planning, managing and execution.
I wish you luck.

 

References
http://volunteerhalton.ca/programs/socialplanning
http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195389678/obo-9780195389678-0123.xml
http://www.mesh-app.co/

Stakeholders

When beginning a new project, an important part of its planning is identifying "Stakeholders" by mapping out all those people that affect the project or are affected by it in order to prevent and reduce future conflicts that may harm the project's success. Many projects are stalled or stopped because someone forgot to involve a certain factor, either by ignoring this person or by not taking this person's importance into consideration. Many a time it is enough to forget to email someone and the tension begins building up. In order to deal with all these factors that can affect the project, I'll explain in this review the importance of the subject and will also suggest several ways to deal with Stakeholders. Let's begin.

What does the term "Stakeholders" even mean?

The term refers to anyone actively involved in the project or those whose interests are affected (for better or worse) by the project (according to the PMBOK's definition). In other words, anyone who the project concerns somehow: suppliers, clients, government agencies, employees, interest groups etc. if these aren't taken into consideration when during the project planning process, there is a big chance this project will fail.

I will now describe a few phases that will assist in recognizing these stakeholders and channel them for the success of the project:

Stage 1

Identifying stakeholders: the first stage is to define the goal of analyzing stakeholders, to identify all potential users that the project effects and map them out (this mapping can be done in map-form, table, etc).

 

How do we identify?

Besides the project's distinct stakeholders: the client, the supplier, and the users, there are others affected by the project vicariously-and they should be identified as well. This can be done by paying careful attention during different events (office, meetings, hallway conversations, status discussions) to questions like "who is dominant now?" "Why does this person react positively/negatively?" "who is associated with this person?" (For example, if this stakeholder is a manager- who does she/he listen to, who are his/her friends?).

Stage 2

At this stage, after we understood who the "main players" and "supporting roles", we'll try to understand how and  why they affect and are affected by the project either positively or negatively, how much influence  do they have, are they close to other influencers in the organization etc.

Stage 3

This is the practical stage in which we invest thought to the manner in which we can get these "influencers" to influence the "stakeholders" for the benefit of the project.

Hereby are a few examples of utilizing stakeholders:

  • Constant updates during the project
  • Participating in launching/conclusion events
  • Attaching and forwarding mails
  • Hallway meetings
  • Lunch together, coffee etc.

In conclusion, it is important that this process is not performed only at the beginning of the project; rather accompany it throughout its duration. Furthermore, during the project check if any new stakeholders have suddenly appeared. If these are indeed located, perform the three stages described above again.

 

Storytelling (advanced)

In 2know magazine's March 2007 issue, an article titled "Storytelling" listed the advantages and benefits of storytelling as a method for implementing organizational knowledge. The article ended off with asking: when is storytelling indeed useful? When is it redundant and how can storytelling be interesting (and even unforgettable) way?

 

We will attempt to answer these questions by presenting a number of elements that can make an ordinary story to actual knowledge sharing:

  • The story must be concise, yet nevertheless must contain enough details and descriptions in order for the audience to understand it easily.
  • The story should be connected to the target audience's world of content and terms yet present a new and refreshing aspect that will fascinate them to the described event.
  • The story must be as authentic as possible and must incorporate "close to home" elements such as names of crews and chapter participating in the organization.
  • The message or moral of the story should be subtly hinted, not obvious and explicit. A target audience that reaches an insight through independent thought will remember it better in the long run and therefore the chance it will implemented in daily work is higher.
  • The story should cause a response or identification from the audience. Identification can be achieved by encouraging the audience to share their feelings and opinions regarding the story and discuss similar experiences and situations with which the listeners have dealt.
  • In order to generate a positive and constructive atmosphere it is preferable to finish off with happy ending which will provide the audience with audience with hope and optimism and aspire them to use the insight learned from the story.

 

Another noteworthy point is that practice makes perfect. The more you use storytelling in the organization you will grow familiar with the audience and develop effective storytelling skills for this audience.

 

-excerpted from Knowledge Management in Theory and in Practice by Kimiz Dalkir

Super User

It's not a bird, it's not a plane! It's Super User!

Most of us are familiar with the term 'super user' from the world of IT, where it refers to the user with the maximal and unlimited authorizations to access all applications and parts of the system, including the programming level. This, however, is not the level we are dealing with.

There is another type of super user in the world of Knowledge Management that affects the system equally:

Most of us have encountered situations in which we find ourselves searching for information in the organizational portal and simply cannot find it. We then turn to someone, usually of a similar status, which we perceive as an "expert" on the portal and request his/her help. If we view the issue from the eagle's eye, we will discover that in most organizations, most workers turn to the same person. This is not a coincidence.

We can nearly always find in every technological system in any given work environment someone who naturally connects to the system, enjoys working with it and knows it better than everyone else. It is a natural and well known phenomenon in all fields. This is in terms of Knowledge Management the real super user, one whose power does not stem from authorization, rather his/her traits, personal inclination and enthusiasm. If this user exists somewhere in your organization, why not identify him/her and use him/her in order to implement the entire Knowledge Management solution?

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